Paleoanthropology and Geology in Tanzania
living at Olduvai

Olduvai Gorge Living Conditions: the basecamp is set up at Leakey’s camp at Olduvai Gorge (˜240 km northwest of Arusha town and approximately a 6-hour drive from Arusha town). Olduvai is located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area a World Heritage Site famous for its natural and cultural resources. The continuing tectonic activity in the region makes the place an epicenter of research in environments, climate, tectonics, human evolution and wildlife ecology. The Olduvai site is located about 3° South of the Equator (S 2°59’ and E 35°20’) with an altitude of ca. 1450 m. The temperatures can range from 40°F to 91°F. Therefore, days are usually warm and dry but nights and mornings can be chilly. Students are advised to bring light cotton shorts and shirts or blouses, brimmed hats and sunglasses for the days and long pants and fleece jackets for the evenings and mornings.

The field terrain varies from flat grass plains to steep outcrops. Field instructions will include hiking down and up the slippery outcrops, requiring rugged boots with deep treads for a good grip and to protect against the acacia tree thorns. Occasional long distance walks (approximately 20 minutes) will be involved depending on the accessibility of particular study sites. Dust is prevalent so precautions should be taken such as using bandanas.

daily life

Meals: Meals are prepared by experienced bush cooks. Meals consist of bread, sandwiches, pasta, rice, potatoes, chapati (naan), ugali (corn meal), makande (mix of corn, red beans, vegetables, and coconut milk – served hot) and cooked green bananas with vegetables and beef, etc. Fresh vegetables include spinach, green pepper, lettuce, peas, eggplant, pumpkins, carrots, greens, tomatoes, zucchini, cabbage, onions, etc. Fresh vegetables, beef and chicken are purchased from Karatu town. Breakfast consists of fresh brewed coffee, tea, eggs, fresh bread (made daily by the bush cooks in a firewood stove), porridge made from millet and sorghum flour, and variety of fresh tropical fruits including pineapples, papayas, avocado, bananas, oranges, mangoes, watermelons, etc.

Water: Water is delivered from Ngorongoro (collected from the headsprings in the Ngorongoro Crater forest) by a "boozer." So water is used carefully. Drinking water is safe and is routinely boiled and filtered by the kitchen staff.

Accommodations: Tents are pitched in a well-planned arrangement inside the camp fence. Each student should bring his or her own small wind- and moisture-resistant tent, sleeping bag, or bedding supplies and towels. Hot shower is not available, but you can bring a 2-4 gal solar shower bag. These are usually filled with water and laid outside in the morning or noon, and by afternoon the water is pretty hot. The shower bags are then carried to the makeshift shower huts whenever one wishes to take a shower. It is advisable to bring sandals for the shower. The toilets are single-sex pit latrines fitted with toilet seat covers, which we try to maintain. Due to water shortage, laundry will be provided twice a week (hand washing by camp staff).

Lights and Electricity: Solar and kerosene lamps and candles are commonly used in the dining hall and in the field labs for light. Power is very limited so bring a couple of flashlights (with batteries) and solar lanterns for use in the tent. We will carry extra flashlights you can borrow in case you lose one. There is solar powered electricity (110V and 220V outlets available) but its use is restricted to the lab and in most cases it doesn’t function properly. Alternatively, we use a small generator (220V only) to charge batteries, computers etc. (turned on for a couple of hours per day).

Cellphones: There is a cellphone network at the Olduvai, Ngorongoro and Serengeti areas, although not very good, provided by Vodacom and Airtel companies. Contact information will be provided for receiving calls and limited access to call home.

Internet: There is internet capability at the base camp via satellite dish. Students will be given access for course-related and personal activities.


(PDF) A carry-on bag with an extra set of field clothing, field shoes or sneakers, prescriptions, travel documents including immigration material (visa), and personal essentials in the event that your luggage does not arrive due to short connections. If your bag does not arrive, fill in the forms at the airport, and use the provided address as delivery address. We will make a follow up the next day.

  1. A supply of field clothes to allow you to change when dirty ones have been put out for laundry. Mostly casual safari/travel clothes), including some longer pants and shirts (or convertible pants that can be long-or-short legged and shirts with button-up sleeves), a sweater or light jacket for cool nights.
  2. Rugged boots, a pair of comfortable walking shoes, work gloves, brimmed-hats, sun glasses.
  3. Couple of flashlights, solar lantern, batteries, sleeping bag and/or set of bed-sheets, towel, small tent, shower bag, personal toiletries, hand sanitizers, sunscreens, insect repellants, camp chair.
  4. Bring notebooks. You will keep a field journal for daily activities. You may bring your own field kit (e.g., geo-hammer, archaeological trowel, hand lens (10-16X), excavation brushes, pens, clipboard, good camera, and a pocket knife with a can/bottle opener (any sort of small survival kit is good).
  5. Books (novels, articles etc.), personal music etc.

Recommended readings

  1. Born in Africa: The Quest for the Origins of Human Life by Martin Meredith.
  2. The Next Species: The Future of Evolution in the Aftermath of Man by Michael Tennesen.
contact information

dr. jackson njau | dr. jim brophy
department of earth and atmospheric sciences
indiana university
1001 e. 10th st. bloomington in 47405

phone: 812-856-3170 | 812-855-6417

email: |